Maybe the most irritating thing about Roland Emmerich's generally unwatchable 10,000 BC was leading man Steven Strait's bizarre accent. Totally indeterminate -- he trilled his r's and drawled occasionally -- it was clearly meant to indicate in some uncertain way that what we're watching takes place a Very Long Time Ago. Hello? The movie is called 10,000 BC and the characters are already speaking English. Making them speak weird English isn't exactly adding verisimilitude. I don't know who Emmerich thought he was fooling.

I always find this sort of thing annoying, and sometimes vaguely insulting. I'm perfectly fine with characters who speak English even though they're not supposed to -- it's easier that way, and I can suspend disbelief. But if you're going to go that route, why add constant, pointless reminders of the very fact you're trying to dodge? Part of the reason I admire The Hunt for Red October is that John McTiernan said "screw it" and let Sean Connery keep his Scottish brogue as a Soviet submarine captain.*
My favorite example of this is K-19: The Widowmaker, where Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson play Russian submarine officers who spend the entire movie speaking to each other in English with Russian accents. Did director Kathryn Bigelow really think we'd forget that they're Russian? Come on now: their names are Dmitri and Mikhail, and the damn submarine is adorned with an enormous hammer and sickle. Another example is Before Night Falls, where a bunch of Cubans, including one played by Sean Penn, speak Spanish-accented English.

I can deal with the convention that people in fantasy movies (The Lord of the Rings, Eragon, etc.) tend to be British; Americans are accustomed, for whatever reason, to British dialects accompanying sword-and-sorcery settings. (For the most part producers of these movies have learned to save everyone the trouble and just cast British actors.) But the inexplicable accents in 10,000 BC and K-19 strike me as just stupid and distracting -- as well as awfully patronizing to the audience. Maybe this is a nitpick that didn't merit a full-blown Rant, but it's something that always bothers me.

Does it bug anyone else? And are there instances of this phenomenon I'm overlooking?

*Incidentally, if you happen to be a native Russian speaker, you must check out Red October solely for the few phrases that Connery utters in Russian at the beginning of the film. It's a truly incredible spectacle.
categories Cinematical